As the very name of the network make abundantly clear, Syfy is the home for plenty of niche genre shows that might not have a shot at getting picked up or finding a large audience at one of the bigger stations. Typically, these tend to be action-driven projects with a fantastical spin like Wyonna Earp, Van Helsing or The Magicians, and based on the core concept alone Vagrant Queen seemed to slot perfectly into the lineup.
Based on the Vault comic book of the same name, the small screen adaptation was created by Jem Garrard and starred Adriyan Ray in the lead role as Elida. The show was ordered straight to series in May 2019 and came together incredibly quickly, with the premiere episode airing just ten months later.
The story followed the heroine living the life of a scavenger and outlaw, before an old acquaintance turns up out of the blue with information about her mother. The setup was fairly standard stuff that hardly promised anything groundbreaking, but there was enough potential in the concept to deliver an entertaining twist on the sort of alt-reality mythology that’s been seen on both the big and small screen innumerable times over the years.
The original comic book series was described as ‘Star Wars directed by the Coen brothers’, and while that sort of ambition is admirable, the TV version of Vagrant Queen unsurprisingly failed to find a balance that any show would find almost impossible to strike. That being said, it never takes itself too seriously and is fully aware that the concept is inherently ridiculous, and a little bit of self-awareness often goes a long way.
It does result in some jarring tonal shifts when the narrative goes from quips and one-liners to trying to tug at the heartstrings in the space of the same scene, but Rae anchors everything with a solid and fiercely committed lead performance that benefits both the more outlandish elements of Vagrant Queen and the standard procedural format the first season adhered to.
Showrunner Garrard pulls from a myriad of different influences and tries to stitch them together in a cohesive whole but all of the disparate pieces are never quite pulling in the same direction, which isn’t a shock when there’s clear inspiration being taken from Joss Whedon and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not to mention some psychedelic visuals straight out of the 1970s.
Despite generally solid reviews from fans and critics alike, Vagrant Queen struggled to gain a foothold when it came to viewership numbers, and even the premiere failed to attract 400,000 sets of eyes. The figures continued to dip over the course of the following nine episodes, and by the time the finale aired the show had already lost over 40% of its audience.
Just weeks after the debut season had drawn to a close, Syfy wielded the axe and announced that Vagrant Queen would not be returning, with low ratings being cited as a major factor. Fans might be hoping that it gets picked up elsewhere, but with such a small target demographic willing to check it out the first time around it seems very unlikely to happen.